A Circular Built Environment Playbook is most welcome during and at a time of a worldwide overbuilt environment and an omnipresent culture of infinite resources. It shall be doubly rewarding if this Playbook leads to advance regenerative. Let us wait and see.
WorldGBC launches Circularity Accelerator – a groundbreaking global programme to advance circular and regenerative built environments
World Green Building Council (WorldGBC) and its network of over 70 Green Building Councils are #BuildingtoCOP27 by launching Circularity Accelerator — a global programme to accelerate the adoption of circular economy and resource efficiency principles in the building and construction sector.
Last week, the United Nations (UN) reported we have a 50% chance of exceeding 1.5°C of global heating in the next five years. Between the UN Climate Summit of COP21 in Paris and COP26 in Glasgow, the global economy consumed 70% more raw materials than the Earth can safely replenish. 
Our planet thrives through circular, natural and regenerative systems, which are being damaged by the impacts of the built environment:
The built environment is responsible for 37% of global energy-related carbon emissions, and the construction sector accounts for around 40% of global resource demand every year. By 2050, two thirds of the global population will live in cities, consuming 75% of the world’s natural resources, producing 50% of global waste and over 60% of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. 
Over one-third of the materials used worldwide are for buildings, but less than 9% of global materials consumed are circular, i.e. kept in productive cycles of use. 
The impact of this resource use-associated GHG emissions and pollution and plunging biodiversity accelerates climate change and the decline of life-sustaining ecosystem services such as the maintenance of clean water and productive soils.
Cristina Gamboa, CEO, WorldGBC, said:
“The UN has reported we have a 50% chance of exceeding 1.5°C of global heating in the next five years. Over one-third of the materials used globally are for buildings, but less than 9% of global materials consumed are kept in productive cycles of use.
“The impact of this resource use — associated GHG emissions and pollution and plunging biodiversity — accelerates climate change and the decline of life-sustaining ecosystem services such as the maintenance of clean water and productive soils. These impacts unequally affect the most vulnerable communities and economies around the world. But that can and must change.
“To scale the implementation of resource efficiency solutions as we approach COP27, our new Circularity Accelerator programme is already bringing together experts and leaders from across our Green Building Council network to drive the implementation of resource efficiency actions to scale sustainable built environments for everyone, everywhere.”
WorldGBC’s Circularity Accelerator
Circularity Accelerator is a WorldGBC global programme to catalyse the adoption of circular economy and resource efficiency in the building and construction sector.
To tackle the climate and resource impact of the built environment and to support the ambitions of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement, WorldGBC’s Circularity Accelerator convenes the WorldGBC network of 70+ Green Building Councils and their 36,000 members to work towards WorldGBC’s circularity and resource efficiency goals:
– 2030 goal: The sustainable management and efficient use of natural resources within the built environment, achieving zero waste to landfill targets and working towards a built environment with net zero whole life resource depletion
– 2050 goal: A built environment with net zero whole life resource depletion, working towards the restoration of resources and natural systems within a thriving circular economy
The featured image above is the Exchange, designed by Kengo Kuma and Associates. Kengo Kuma and Associates are known for projects examining the association between nature, technology, and human beings. Credit: Anne Czichos / Shutterstock.
French-Lebanese architect seeks pro-climate construction transformation
Lina Ghotmeh has pegged her career on sustainable construction.
The French-Lebanese architect wants to see her industry transformed by drastically reducing the use of concrete — a major CO2 contributor — using more local materials and reusing existing buildings and materials.
“We need to change our value system,” the 42-year-old told AFP last month.
The aim is to reduce the carbon footprint of the construction industry and create buildings that can better resist the impacts of climate change.
But it’s not an easy battle.
The industry accounts for almost 40 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, according to the United Nations.
Ghotmeh, who designed the Estonian National Museum and taught at Yale University, doesn’t advocate for fewer buildings — she knows that’s an unrealistic goal in a world with a growing population.
“That would be like saying ‘stop eating,'” she said.
– ‘Don’t demolish’ –
Instead, we should “keep what already exists, don’t demolish,” but refurbish and retrofit old buildings in a sustainable way where possible.
Building a new detached house consumes 40 times more resources than renovating an existing property, and for a new apartment complex that rises to 80 times more, according to the French Agency for Ecological Transition (Ademe).
And then there’s concrete, the main material in so many modern buildings and perhaps the most challenging to move away from.
“We must drastically reduce the use of concrete”, she said, insisting it should only be used for essential purposes, such as foundations and building in earthquake-prone areas.
Some 14 billion cubic metres of concrete are used every year, according to the Global Cement and Concrete Association.
It emits more CO2 than the aviation industry, largely because of the intense heat required to make it.
Alternatives to concrete already exist, such as stone, or making cement — a component of concrete — from calcium carbonate. There are also pushes for low-carbon cement made from iron and steel industry waste.
– Beirut inspiration –
Building more sustainably often comes with a higher price tag — it costs more to double or triple glaze windows and properly insulate a house — but the long-term payoff is lower energy costs.
For Ghotmeh, it’s an imperative investment in our future.
It was her birthplace of Beirut that inspired her to become an architect, spurring a desire to rebuild the so-called “collapsed city” ravaged by war.
In 2020, she completed the “Stone Garden” apartment tower in the city, built with concrete covered with a combed coating, a technique often used by local craftsmen. She used concrete in the construction because of earthquake risks.
The building was strong enough to survive the port explosion in 2020 that destroyed a large part of the city.
And the city continues to inspire her today, even when it comes to climate sustainability.
“Since there is practically only an hour of electricity per day, all the buildings have solar panels now. There is a kind of energy independence which is beginning to take place, by force,” she said.
“Does it take a catastrophe like the one in Lebanon to make this transition?”
A Pennsylvania State UniversityRESEARCH on living materials that are the future of sustainable building has elaborated on this aspect of the building materials and / or their combination as illustrated by the above image of Jose Duarte, professor of architecture, and doctoral student Elena Vazquez adjust panels on a prototype of a dynamic window shading system that Vazquez designed and built. Credit to: Patrick Mansell. All rights reserved. If this goes through, we could safely say that building sites will look a bit different in the future.
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